President McCurdy, faculty, graduation candidates, family and friends:
Thank you for inviting me to participate in this very special occasion -- the conclusion of one important chapter in your life, and the beginning of another.
As your Lt. Governor, I'm proud to help recognize your hard work and welcome you into a new club with distinction -- a graduate of Rhodes State College. And -- as Rhodes State is celebrating its 40th anniversary -- it's an especially exciting and unique time to graduate from this distinguished institution.
As you may know, Rhodes State College was named after former Governor Jim Rhodes who was one of only a handful of governors to serve his state for four terms. I mention this important fact because Governor Rhodes was committed to higher education, and he was especially committed to community colleges and improving higher education access for all Ohioans
Governor Rhodes said, "Young people want education; we want them to have a job in one hand and a diploma in the other." He made institutions like Rhodes State a reality in Ohio.
Because of the dedication and commitment of Governor Rhodes and the many leaders who followed, Rhodes State's success is well demonstrated in its number of graduates -- with this year's class, a total of 15,000!
To prepare for today's speech I asked for advice from my 21 year old son. His response, "keep it short mom!" So I will do my best! Along this journey of life we have the chance to learn many lessons from a number of different people, so I thought I would share with you three lessons I've learned that gave me this opportunity to stand here before you today.
LESSON ONE: In 2005, Steven Jobs, founder of Apple and Pixar, delivered a college commencement address. He said, and this is lesson one, "you can't connect the dots looking forward, but believing the dots will connect will give you the confidence to follow your heart off of the well-worn path."
In other words, don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone if you believe in your heart that doing so is the right thing to do. Even though it doesn't all make sense now, it will someday.
Steven Jobs believed the dots would somehow connect, even when he was fired from Apple. But he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and started Pixar. He later returned to Apple, and the rest is history. He left our world last year and will be remembered as "the father of the digital revolution," whose innovations and work will profoundly impact the world for generations to come.
100 years earlier Thomas Edison understood that inventions are born from creativity, discovery, or the ability to produce something previously unknown by the use of ingenuity or imagination. He also must have believed that at some point in the future the dots would connect. With that belief and a lot of hard work and tenacity, Thomas Edison's work became known as "the inventions that revolutionized modern life during the industrial revolution, and changed the world for generations."
We can all think of people, famous and not-so-famous, who have impacted our lives in some way. For me, the most successful person I know who forever impacted the life of one girl is my Dad.
No, he's not an inventor and he hasn't changed the world for generations of people; Nor is he famous; The impact he had on my life is not based on his wealth (there isn't any); His position; or material treasures; but by the quality of the life he led, the decisions he made, his inspiration to others, and the lessons and values he taught his children.
During the polio epidemic of the 1940's and 50's, he was stricken with polio as a young child. He spent months in an iron lung in a hospital -- quarantined. But miraculously, he lived at a time when tens of thousands of Americans did not. Yes he suffered from permanent deformities of his legs, his left leg underdeveloped, his right overdeveloped. He walked with a limp.
But he never acted or treated his condition as a disability that prevented him from doing the things normal kids did -- he ran, he jumped, and he played baseball and football -- just not the same way the other kids did. But that never stopped my Dad. He never let his deformity keep him from doing the things he loved.
When he graduated from high school he loved construction, so he became a bricklayer, working alongside his Dad. And after he married my Mom, he golfed so much that it truly drove her crazy.
So as far as I can tell he was, and is, pretty normal. He loved his family, he provided for us,>> and he taught my brother, my sister and me these important values:
Work hard; dream big dreams; don't let failures or setbacks keep you from your goals; and always do the right thing!
LESSON TWO: My dad was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. It could be six months or maybe two years before we lose him. I remember the day I sat with him in the doctor's office when the doctor gave us the prognosis. My dad's first response was, "I haven't had enough time." I didn't know what to say, so I said, "there never is."
Lesson Two: "There's never enough time!" And all of us will be in my dad's shoes, one way or another, someday. So follow your heart, do what you love. Live YOUR life, dream YOUR dreams, and follow YOUR passion.
Recently I've thought a lot about the values my dad taught me and the lessons I've learned, and how they've impacted my life. When I started college, I first chose to major in pre-medicine -- I wanted to be a doctor someday -- but very quickly I realized that wasn't for me. So, as I thought about my life and what it would look like, I remembered that as a young girl I loved math and statistics. In fact, I listened to the Cleveland Indians on the radio and tracked player statistics.
I could tell you that in 1974 Buddy Bell had 111 hits and they finished 4th in the American League east. And yes, I remember 10 cent beer night -- but I wasn't there!
Quickly I realized there was a career path where I could do what I always loved to do, so I chose to major in accounting. I worked hard, graduated, and became a Certified Public Accountant..... interestingly, the only CPA elected to any state office in Ohio's 208-year history.
I really had no idea then how my dots would connect later in life, so I chose the traditional route for an accounting graduate. I worked for two different accounting firms in my professional private-sector career. In fact, I started my career at what was one of the six biggest accounting firms in the world. Later I worked for a local firm in Akron. After my 10th year working in accounting, I had the opportunity to be appointed to city council at a time when our community faced a big divide over the construction of a new church. Anyone who knew me expected I would say no, but I decided to take the path less traveled, and I agreed.
It's amazing what can happen to your life in 10 years when you follow your heart and are not afraid of something completely new and different.
In fact there is a student graduating today that found her life going in a new direction and not because she chose to take a new path. She faced what so many Ohio families have faced in the last five years -- the loss of a job and the security for her family that goes with it. She found herself in this unexpected place, but not of her own choosing -- although at that point she still had a choice. In her words there was "no time for pouting," so with the encouragement of her family, she chose to get an education.
It turns out that today she is working in a career she loves, helping people through crises situations. It took this unexpected turn of events for her to choose a new path or take the road less traveled. To quote her, "when one door closes, another will open."
I've learned a new lesson because of the inspiring story of just one of you today. I know there are others. What happened next for me: I served on city council and helped encourage a more thoughtful open process to deal with contentious issues. I was elected to serve two terms as a state representative, where we passed comprehensive tax reform -- cutting taxes for Ohio taxpayers and families by 21% -- and improved Ohio's tax climate to make it easier to start, locate and grow a business to give more Ohioans good job opportunities.
Next, I was elected and served four years as State Auditor where we modernized and updated our technology and transformed our audit process to hold state and local government accountable for how it spends your tax dollars. Finally, in 2010, I was elected to serve as your Lt. Governor. Our unemployment rate dropped from 9.3% to 7.4%, and recently we were first in the Midwest for job creation -- putting Ohioans back to work.
Yes, I've learned a lot about myself in the last 10 years, and the dots really do connect. I have the chance today to do something I really love: serve the public and help solve problems to strengthen individuals, families and communities.
All of this because I was willing to take the road less traveled and always remembered the values my dad taught me. I've learned to follow my heart, and I try to enjoy every minute of every opportunity that comes my way, because, there's just "never enough time!"
LESSON THREE: I've learned in life to dream big. It began with my dad's advice and holds true today, just as it did when he first said it.
Lesson three is dream big. And of course remember what RG3 taught us the night he was drafted into the NFL - achieve your dreams!
We all start somewhere. For me it was a small, blue-collar town in Summit County. For many of you it's Lima or another nearby community> It really doesn't matter how or where we start. It's how we travel the journey and, ultimately, how we finish.
You are at the beginning of your journey. I'm somewhere in the middle. And my dad is near the end. Remember, you never get enough time, so it's up to you to make the most of the time you do have.
Love life; Do what you love; Live like there's no tomorrow -- no regrets; and Don't be afraid to take the path less traveled -- the dots will connect in the end. Congratulations Rhodes State College class of 2012 on the end of one journey, and the beginning of the next.
You have done well. Now go live your dreams!